Along with my iPhone 4s, I decided to nab the most expensive -- and so I assumed best -- case at Best Buy: the LifeProof for $80. While the price seemed sort of excessive, I thought that would mean I'd basically not even need to get insurance for the phone.
I was wrong ... and also right. I'll give my first impression, followed by my latest impression.
When I first saw it in the store, I thought it looked nice; well built, nice design, et cetera. Once I got home and opened the box, I was sort of scratching my head. My initial thought was, "Wow. This case looked a lot better when it was in the box.", followed quickly by, "Where in the hell are the instructions to get my phone in this?"
The box has a little note that says to go to the LifeProof website to see how to get the case together. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do this. What I DON'T recommend is water testing it. I know that sounds stupid to say, but I really can't stress that enough. I'll go on about that later.
Before you throw your phone in your case, make sure it's impeccably clean. If you're like me, you'll focus on the tiniest spec of dust in the corner of the screen. Do you really want that to be there for the time you have your phone? I didn't either, but I soon found out that it's seemingly impossible to get your phone in the case without at least one little tiny piece of dust finding its way to the screen. It's frustrating, but just leave it be ... again, I'll tell more about that later.
Later the next day, I noticed a few things: First, some dust was in my screen... being a waterproof case, I was a bit perplexed as to how that could have snuck itself in there. Second, I was getting weird rainbow streaks on my screen that wouldn't go away. Frustrated, I opened my case and saw that the back portion of the case was a little bent, and I guessed that is how the dust/air got in. I also figured that I was getting the rainbow streaks on my screen because I was pushing on it several times to get my phone out of the case to keep cleaning it before I finally put the case together.
I wound up taking the case back to Best Buy to get a new one, and had no hassle. Really, just take these tips:
1.) Don't bother waterproofing your case. Look at the yellow seal, see if it's in tact, and then just get your phone in there. Assume LifeProof knows how to make the case you paid $80 for properly.
2.) Don't put your phone in and out of the front cover too many times before putting the back on and locking it. I did this with my first case, and I feel like this caused me to stretch out the front cover, causing the annoying oily-rainbow streaks. If you absolutely must, do it two times tops. Really just make sure the inside of the case is as clean as possible, as is your phone.
3.) Don't open up your case. Once you snap it together, leave it that way. Forever. With my first case, after I waterproofed it, I attempted to open it up: it was an absolute pain in the ass. I felt like I was breaking it, even though I opened it the same way LifeProof's website recommended.
4.) Use the headphone adapter. When I went driving around after I got my phone, I unscrewed the top part of the case where the headphones go in, and simply put in my iPhone headphones. I realized after dust got in my case just what that adapter was for. Had I actually watched all the LifeProof videos on the site, I'd've known that. So unless you want to get dust on your screen, use the adapter.
If you do those four things and don't make the mistakes I did, your phone may really be virtually life proof. I've brought my phone in the shower, and it has worked flawlessly. I've yet to drop it, but from what I've seen in a YouTube video (YouTube "LifeProof case drop test... it's the first link.), the phone can be dropped from about 5 feet and remain completely in tact. While I doubt the LifeProof case could survive more than a 10 foot fall or a throw to a wall, it could still likely do a lot more for you than some of the other cases on the market, due mostly to its resistance to water... I'm personally looking forward to trying to film a clip underwater with it once summer comes along.
While at first I felt like the LifeProof case was a complete disappointment and waste of money, I came to the conclusion that my ignorance and a possible design flaw (I noticed that the bottom connector flap of my first case was a weird yellow material, while my new one has a black almost memory foamy material.) caused my first case to essentially be a dud. After going back to Best Buy and getting another LifeProof case, I can say that - for now - I'm satisfied. The case is simply but sleekly designed, it isn't bulky so it's easy to get in and out of your pocket, and it's been durable thus far. If you're going to get a case for your iPhone 4 or 4s, I'd recommend spending the extra $20 or so to get the LifeProof.
5/24/13 Update: Two things. First of all, after about 4 or 5 months of having my case, I noticed a crack on the hard plastic charge port door. I contacted LifeProof, and they pretty quickly sent out a back-of-case replacement. When I got it, I mailed my broken case back -- cost me nothing, and happened smoothly. Just today (a little over a year after having the case) that the top right corner of my phone, the rubber portion, near the sleep button, is cracked and peeling. I assume this is from constantly putting it in my pocket and taking it out, but it still shouldn't happen. I'm glad I noticed it, because I don't trust to take my phone in the water at this point. I've also started to notice slight scratches on my case which have created rainbow-esque stripes on my screen, which is pretty annoying... and I take care of my phone the best way I know how.
For an $80 case, it's hard to recommend... it works well for awhile, but crumbles before I'm elligible to get a new phone. If this case lasted just two years before taking a crap, I'd probably be more okay with it. As it stands now, I'd give this case a 3/5. It doesn't completely suck, right now, it's merely shock proof, and not water proof.